December 15, 2011 •
Alabama Democratic Conference Prevails
A federal judge ruled in favor of the Alabama Democratic Conference in their challenge of the state prohibition on PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds.
The Alabama Democratic Conference alleged that the law prohibited their PAC from getting money from other PACs to use for voter communication and voter turnout initiatives.
November 22, 2011 •
Contains Increased PAC Filing Requirements
The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has released the 2012 campaign finance filing calendar.
The calendar incorporates the changes enacted by the Alabama Legislature as public acts 2011-687 and 2011-697 including increased frequency of reporting required by political action committees.
November 9, 2011 •
The Birmingham News gives us another glimpse at the state of lobbying in Alabama.
For a detailed look at the type of exemptions being submitted, take a look at “Alabama’s new ethics law fails to stop exemption requests from lobbyists and public officials” by Kim Chandler.
According to the article: “The Alabama Ethics Commission has received nearly 200 requests to certify dinners, trips and conferences as allowable exemptions since Alabama 10 months ago adopted a new ethics law, which caps how much a lobbyist can spend on a public official.”
October 31, 2011 •
Alabama ethics reform 10 months later …
Today’s Birmingham News offers an article by Kim Chandler, “New Alabama ethics law sweeps in culture shift for capital lobbyists,” which describes how lobbying techniques in the state have changed since the ethics law was passed. Chandler also considers the views of those whose businesses have suffered in the capitol as a result of those changes.
“Ten months after the Alabama Legislature approved the new ethics law capping lobbyists’ spending, the culture is different in Montgomery, said several legislators. There are no more free tickets, golf outings, social trips or nightly one-on-one dinners with lobbyists.”
Photo of the Alabama State Capitol building by Jim Bowen on Wikipedia.
July 5, 2011 •
Here are highlights from the latest edition of News You Can Use:
From the States and Municipalities:
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
Jim Sedor is editor of News You Can Use.
June 13, 2011 •
Bill Sent to Governor
The Alabama Legislature adjourned on June 9, 2011.
Before adjourning, the legislature passed House Bill 0058 which requires public officials, spouses of public officials, candidates for public office, and spouses of candidates for public office to disclose employment or contracts with the state and federal government.
The bill has been sent to the governor for signature.
Photo of the Alabama State Capitol by Jim Bowen on Wikipedia.
March 16, 2011 •
Opponents of a new law prohibiting payroll deductions from public employees for “political activity” have filed for a temporary injunction in federal court.
The complaint filed by the American Education Association seeks to have the law overturned on grounds of violating free speech and equal protection.
Even though the law prohibits the use of payroll deductions from all public employees for such activities, the teachers’ group says the law, passed and supported by Republicans, is discriminatory and specifically aimed at them because the A.E.A. has traditionally been a strong supporter of Democratic candidates.
The statute in question has been a source of controversy since it was passed in December during a special legislative session which saw an overhaul of several aspects of the Alabama ethics laws.
February 3, 2011 •
Following a headline-grabbing scandal in which several prominent Alabama lawmakers, businessmen, and lobbyists were indicted in a cash-for-votes scheme related to pending gambling laws, state legislators took the opportunity to overhaul lobbyist, campaign finance, and other ethics rules.
The special session, called by Governor Riley in late December, lasted seven days and saw the passage of several landmark bills, each of which was promptly signed into law.
The most dramatic change concerning lobbyists is the newly enacted expenditure limits. Previously, lobbyists could spend anything on an official without having to report it until the spending exceeded $250 per day. Now, lobbyists may only spend $25 on an official for a meal with an annual limit of $150. For a lobbyist’s employer, the limit is $50 per meal with a $250 annual cap. This law has been criticized by some as having too many loopholes. For instance, the limit does not apply to an “educational function” or certain “widely attended” events. Disclosure of spending at these events is still required when spending exceeds $250 per official.
Lawmakers also passed a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds. This, lawmakers hope, will reduce the “shell game” sometimes played which makes it very difficult for the public to track who is actually funding candidates or making expenditures.
Several of the laws passed impacted the actions of state officials directly. Starting in 2014, a state lawmaker will no longer be allowed to hold another government job. Additionally, the reforms include a ban on “pass through pork.” This is a practice whereby state lawmakers could direct an agency to spend money a certain way without legislative approval. Finally, the Alabama Ethics Commission will be granted subpoena power; this is expected to make enforcement of the laws much easier and effective.
The most controversial bill passed during the session is one banning politically active groups from receiving contributions via payroll deduction from state employees. This law was decried as an attack on the American Education Association, a group usually linked to Democratic candidates. Governor Riley, a Republican, defended the bill as a step to prevent misuse of state time and money.
While most agree the reform package is not perfect or all-inclusive, most within the state’s ethics and political circles agree they are a significant step forward at a time when Alabama badly needs one.
Photo of the Alabama Statehouse by Spyder_Monkey on Wikipedia.
December 21, 2010 •
Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed seven bills relating to lobbying, campaign finance, and ethics into law yesterday.
While not as strict as the bills originally proposed by the Governor, the newly passed rules represent a dramatic overhaul to Alabama ethics law. Under the new rules, PACs will be forbidden from making transfers of funds to other PACs with a few exceptions.
State lawmakers will be unable to hold a second public job, and one bill imposes a ban on “pass-through pork” whereby a legislator can appropriate funds to a specific agency or project without legislative approval. In the new year, lobbyists will be required to complete a training program, and the State Ethics Commission will have subpoena power.
Another bill signed by Governor Riley will forbid public employees from donating to political groups via payroll deduction. This law has been criticized as politically motivated by state Democrats.
December 17, 2010 •
Important changes made to lobbying and campaign finance rules.
The Alabama legislature concluded its special session late Thursday. The lawmakers passed versions of all seven bills proposed by Governor Bob Riley.
The new laws modify and strengthen state lobbying, campaign finance, and ethics rules. Among the highlights of the laws heading to the Governor’s desk is a requirement for those seeking a state grant or contract with the executive branch to register as lobbyists.
Under another pending bill, a lobbyist will be forbidden from giving an official a “thing of value” with certain exceptions, such as a meal costing $25 with a total limit of $125 per year. Governor Riley’s office has indicated each of the seven passed bills will be signed into law unless the staff reviewing them discovers mistakes or errors.
Photo of Alabama State Capitol by Jim Bowen on Wikipedia.
December 9, 2010 •
They Have an Eye on Ethics Reform
Governor Bob Riley has called the Alabama state legislature into special session. The lawmakers are expected to convene on December 8, 2010 and take up the issue of ethics reform.
This year, the state was plagued by a scandal in which lobbyists and local businesspeople attempted to or actually did bribe legislators to vote for pro-gambling legislation. During the upcoming session, lawmakers are expected to pass reform reducing the amount a lobbyist may spend on an official without reporting it. Additional changes suggested by the Governor include a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds and requiring those who lobby the executive branch for contracts to register.
Photo of Governor Bob Riley by MSGT MARK OWEN, USAF on Wikipedia.
November 23, 2010 •
Alabama utilities commissioners turn out the lights on gifts and contributions from lobbyists.
The state’s Public Services Commission approved new ethics rules last week by a 3-0 vote of the commissioners. These regulations prohibit a commission employee from soliciting or accepting a gift or campaign contribution from a lobbyist representing an industry regulated by the commission.
The new rules took effect immediately upon approval by the commissioners. The Public Services Commission regulates public utilities and telecommunications providers in Alabama.
Map of Alabama by JimIrwin on Wikipedia.
November 8, 2010 •
Promises come in response to scandal connected with gambling legislation.
Alabama Governor-elect Robert Bentley wasted no time in declaring ethics reform a top priority when he assumes office in 2011. Bentley stated his preference is to hold a special session of the state legislature within the regular session, scheduled to convene in February, because it would save the taxpayers money.
Bentley’s goals for the special session include increased frequency of reporting political contributions and online publishing of the contributions. The promises of sweeping ethics reform come on the heels of a scandal in which state senators and lobbyists have been charged with bribery and corruption in connection with pending gambling legislation.
October 6, 2010 •
Federal investigators have unsealed an indictment against four Alabama legislators, three lobbyists, two casino owners, and two others for their participation in an alleged bribery and kickback scheme.
The indictment, the result of a months-long joint investigation by the FBI and the Alabama Attorney General’s office, accuses the business owners of hiring the lobbyists to conduct “a full-scale campaign to bribe and coerce state legislators and others into supporting pro-gambling legislation that they favored”, according to Alabama Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer in this CNN article.
The state senators named in the criminal complaint are Larry Means, James Preuitt, Quinton Ross, and Harri Anne Smith. Several of the charges levied carry maximum penalties of significant prison time and fines of up to $250,000.
Photo of a casino by Raul654 on Wikipedia.
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